Duke junior cornerback Bryon Fields will miss the 2015 season after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament during practice Tuesday.
"The cruelest element of college football – and for all of college athletics – is injury, and we certainly feel heartbreak at this time for Bryon and his family," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said in a statement. "We know Bryon is in great hands with our medical staff, and I have all the confidence in the world in Bryon’s dedication and perseverance to overcome this obstacle. The challenge for a football team to lose a player with Bryon’s ability and experience is significant, but it’s one we’ll embrace."
Fields, a junior, started all 13 games last season, registering 70 tackles and intercepting one pass. He also played in all 14 games as a true freshman, playing a starter’s amount of snaps. Fields had 112 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and one interception in 27 career games.
Because of his quick rise on the field once he graduated from Charlotte Providence Day and arrived in Durham, Fields does have a redshirt year available. He will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after this season.
Fields had already missed significant time this camp with injuries, so the Blue Devils have had reason to get his replacement(s) quality repetitions. Sophomore Alonzo Saxton II is listed behind Fields on the depth chart. He played in the first eight games last year, recording 12 tackles as a true freshman before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury at Pittsburgh. Saxon had also been working at safety this camp, an experiment that could be put on hold if necessary.
There are options beyond Saxton to replace Fields, though. Sophomore Zach Muñiz also played as a true freshman last year, appearing in 12 games and making seven tackles. And this could provide an opportunity for true freshman Jeremy McDuffie, who impressed many with his performance in camp. Redshirt freshman Johnathan Lloyd is another reserve who could play more. Even DeVon Edwards, a corner-turned-safety, has logged a few snaps at corner this camp, just to explore all possibilities.
Whoever replaces Fields will be challenged often — teams typically avoid throwing in the direction of junior corner Breon Borders. The secondary is expected to be the strength of Duke’s defense this year. That can still be the case if one of the talented young corners can step up to fill the void left by Fields.